Month: January 2016

How to De-Stress During Your Vacations

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Most people spend at least some of their daily routine wishing they could take a break and get away. We treasure those few weeks of a year when we get to devote ourselves to relaxation and fun..

However, for those of us who are preconditioned to stress or anxiety, a change of scenery isn’t always enough. For some people, vacations only carry a marginal increase in mood, even before the added stresses of travel. To truly feel better, you need to change not only your circumstances and your routine, but also the way you think and react to your surroundings. An article on Psychology Today shares some tips that may be helpful.

The first thing to remember on a vacation is to leave your normal life–and especially your job–as far behind as possible. 91% of working Americans admitted to checking their work email while on vacation. Please remember that you don’t owe your employers anything when you’re off the clock. You do owe it to yourself to try and forget about work-related stress until you’re back in the office.

Email is only one example: technological interconnectivity makes a vacation a very different prospect than it was in the past. It might seem nearly impossible to “get away” when you’re carrying all your personal and professional relationships around in your phone. Similarly, if you’re trying to take a break from your daily routine, you’ll find a more insidious “daily routine” of smartphone use. Checking the same apps and websites every day might not be as stressful as your job, but it still locks you into a certain mindset and can distract you from the little joys of your vacation.

The most important thing going into a vacation is not to focus inward. Instead of just seeking your own pleasure, think about how you can help the people around you have a good time. Instead of sitting and waiting around for an emotional or physical reward, focus on how rewarding your present circumstances are. A vacation is an excellent time to practice gratitude and focus on the positive in your life.

With temperatures plummeting and snow on the way, think about getting away, if you have the chance. If you bring the right attitude into a vacation, you can come out feeling refreshed and ready to meet your life on new terms.

Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!

Nine Questions to Ask When Choosing a Therapist

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We tend to be very discriminating when we’re entering a relationship. It can take us choose our friends, our romantic partners, our schools, our employers or employees, or our pets. But in health care, and especially mental health care, we don’t often feel that we have choices. People who start therapy tend to blindly accept referrals or take the closest therapist to their home; they might not have met or spoken with their therapist until they start their first session.

You do, however, have options, especially if you live in a populous area. The best indicator of the success of therapy, according to Dr. Ryan Howes at EverydayHealth, is the strength of your relationship with your therapist. Before committing to a therapist, there are questions you should ask yourself, and questions you should ask your therapist.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Could you imagine telling this therapist your most closely-held secret?
  • How long did it take you to relax around this therapist?
  • Did your conversation with this therapist feel natural, or was it awkward?
  • Did you leave the session feeling like you were able to say everything you wanted to say?
  • Did you understand your therapist’s response? Do you think it might be helpful?

Questions to ask a potential therapist:

  • “I’m having these problems… how will you help me?”
  • “What are your strengths as a therapist?”
  • “Have you ever been in therapy?”
  • “In our sessions, am I going to be setting the topic of discussion, or are you?”

If you don’t like the answers to these questions, look around for another therapist. Therapy can be difficult, but it doesn’t need to feel abstract and pointless–it should be a cooperative effort to improve your life in the short term as well as the long term.

Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!

Seven Thought Patterns Of Depressed People

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When you’re depressed, you feel things differently than other people, and some of your thoughts will be different from other people as well. Depression leads to certain maladaptive patterns of thought that can worsen negative moods. Some people are aware that these thoughts aren’t rational or helpful, while others accept them as truth, but in either case, these thoughts can be hard to shake. Shahram Heshmat at Psychology Today has identified a list of categories of faulty thinking that can worsen depression or reduce our ability to solve problems.

It’s important to note that simply being aware of these thoughts isn’t enough to dispel them. Nor do we intend to judge people for the way we think. But it may be helpful to some people to be aware of the way they arrive at conclusions and decisions. Some therapeutic techniques require similar self-examination.

1. Learned helplessness. Depressed people often assume that they can’t do anything to help themselves or change their circumstances. They’re less inclined to think through all their options.

2. Ruminating on negative thoughts. While positive thoughts are fleeting, negative thoughts might get “stuck in your head” if you suffer from depression. Repetitively thinking about the same things over and over will reinforce negative feelings and make you slower to adapt, rather than helping you come to solutions.

3. Inability to shift attention. Relatedly, the depressed brain lacks the flexibility to consciously think about other things when a negative thought has its attention. Depression can be like losing the remote control on your own thoughts.

4. Biased memory. Our memories are always a combination of what actually happened, our thoughts and feelings in the past, and our thoughts and feelings in the present. Depressed people can have difficulty remembering positive things that happened to them. They might remember a time when they were mostly happy, and only remember feeling sad, or embarrassed, or angry.

5. Self-medication. Self-medication most often refers to drug and alcohol abuse, but it can also refer to any activity that you think may provide short-term relief–even if it doesn’t–but that worsens your situation in the long-term. Compulsive spending, gambling, and binge-eating can be self-medicating behaviors as well.

6. Lack of motivation. Even if you’ve identified a possible solution to the problem–like “I need to find a therapist” or “I need to stop drinking”–you may feel you lack the “willpower” to carry through on these thoughts. Rather than acknowledging their ability to make choices that carry material and emotional consequences, many depressed people have a conception of “willpower” as a finite resource that is easily depleted.

7. Pursuing unattainable goals. Sort of the flip side of this same coin of motivation is the expenditure of emotional or material energy on products that will never “pay out” in emotional reward. You might find yourself constructing an idea like “I will feel better if…” and then filling that out with something that isn’t feasible in the short term, like supporting yourself through art, buying an expensive house, or becoming romantically involved with a particular partner. Setting your goals far off can be a way of putting off small goals with immediate returns, like starting a new creative project, keeping in touch with your friends, or keeping pace with your current career or education.

Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Well-Being Through Sadness

Image courtesy Pixabay

Image courtesy Pixabay

When we’re confronted by powerful negative feelings, a powerful way to cope is to think positive–to make the active choice to focus instead on your positive feelings. However, it’s not good to shut out your negative feelings for too long. All emotions are If you don’t acknowledge or “honor” your sadness, you won’t be well equipped to cope when sad things happen. Erin Leyba Ph.D., writing for PsychToday, outlines different strategies for feeling your sadness in a healthy way.

1. Find the cause. Try and keep track of when you started feeling this way. Even if the cause isn’t immediately apparent, you might be able to draw patterns over time that will help you understand yourself better.

2. Feel it physically. Be aware of the way your body experiences sadness. All emotions cause sensations in different parts of the body; where is your sadness located?

3. Don’t punish or deny yourself. Be as kind toward yourself as you would be to a friend who was feeling sad. Your feelings are valid even if you can’t identify a “good enough” reason for having them.

4. Take some time. Dr. Leyba uses the metaphor of the “sick day.” When we’re sick, we know we shouldn’t be up and around, trying to keep up on chores; we should take care of ourselves and do what we need to do to get better. Think of your feelings the same way. You shouldn’t take the whole day to wallow in sadness, but if you took a little time to work through your sadness? What would that look like?

5. Create somethingArt therapy works, because when we’re trying to put our feelings onto a page or a canvas, we have to devote ourselves to closely examining their feelings. Think of your sadness like a bowl of fruit that you want to paint, or describe in writing. The more you work, the more you’ll come to understand that feeling.

Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? See if you qualify for Lincoln’s clinical research study on depression today!

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